Ask any mom — motherhood isn’t easy. And if you’re a mom in the later stages of life, it also comes fraught with its own issues and worries — a subject not often visited or talked about. And that’s why, as part of our 2017 Mother’s Day Issue, we’re shining a light on one of our favorite memoirs, A Fine Romance (Simon & Schuster) by actress Candice Bergen, who became a mom at 39.
A follow-up to Knock Wood, Bergen’s 1984 autobiography on her upbringing, A Fine Romance covers the second half of her life, delving into her relationships with French director Louis Malle (her first husband), real estate developer Marshall Rose (her second) and television journalist Murphy Brown, the iconic character she played in the CBS sitcom of the same name (“Mike Wallace in a dress”). But the prime protagonist is her daughter, Chloe Malle, whose birth opens the book and whose wedding plans close it. Bergen once called A Fine Romance a love letter to Chloe; the title refers to the song, by Jerome Kern, that she often sang to her.
A Fine Romance is wonderfully written — and, quite simply, a good read. There’s enough detail to keep the starry eyed starry-eyed — this is Bergen after all, and everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Carrie Fisher pop up — but, with her candor and unfiltered intimacy, she becomes just Candice, another person, another human, another mother, sharing her story. Here, a few excerpts.
On Waiting to Have Children
A girlfriend with three grown children was adamant: “Don’t have a child. You’re liberated. Louis is your child. You’re each other’s children.”
Deep down it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. For one thing, Louis wasn’t my child. He was my husband, my friend, my lover. For another, I’d wanted her to urge me on. Tell me not to miss it.
Others did. And were emphatic about it. “It’s now or never!” “I don’t want you to leave it till it’s too late because you’re going to want to have a second one.” “It’s the best thing you’ll ever do.” “It gives you a sense of purpose.” “I don’t want you to miss this.” “What a difference a baby makes.” A friend of mine who ended up adopting said, “Wait until you can’t. Your ambivalence will disappear.”
It was 1985. I was 39 and pondering getting pregnant at a time when so many women were resisting the idea because of the feminism and careerism of the time. That I would even ponder getting pregnant at that age was pure chutzpah. It was such a struggle to commit to having a child and sacrificing what I thought I might be sacrificing — career, a life unencumbered.
On Pregnancy Weight
It was midway through October 1985, as I waddled in a huge plaid tent dress through the ground floor of Bergdorf’s. I’d put on almost 50 pounds since becoming pregnant. A woman kept peering at me, looking away, looking back. Finally she approached, “You know, you have Candice Bergen’s face.”
“But not her body,” I said.
Old friends saw me lurching along the street and burst out laughing. I scowled back. Would this baby be born in a hospital or at Sea World?
On the Name Chloe
I asked the father-to-be. After a long pause, he said, “Cynthia?” Seriously? Cynthia? Really? That’s the best you can come up with? I turned to my stepdaughter, Justine, who wasn’t too thrilled about this whole thing anyway, and asked, “How ‘bout you?”
What was this, a conspiracy?
Clearly, I was on my own. Eloise was my second choice; I loved Clementine too. India? Isabelle? Perhaps I’d call her Annie, with “Animal” as a nickname. Or Minnie, with “Minimal.” Chloe had found a nook in my brain and I stuck with that one. Just Chloe. No umlaut. No accent. Just neat.
On Keeping Work & Personal Life Separate
The first couple of years of Murphy, Chloe visited the set only two or three times. I deliberately kept work and home separate; I didn’t want my daughter to have that sense of entitlement that was common to kids of celebrities. Chloe thought I worked in an office with a lot of cameras. Her only question about work was why everyone had different names on and off the job. We never watched the show together. Whenever she walked by the TV while Louis and I were watching the show, she just assumed it was home movies from work.
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